The Diocese of San Angelo, a suffragan see of the Archdiocese of San Antonio, is one of fourteen Catholic dioceses in Texas. Established by Pope John XXIII on October 16, 1961, the diocese first encompassed thirty-four counties detached from the Catholic dioceses of Amarillo, Austin, El Paso, and Dallas-Fort Worth. The number of counties decreased to twenty-nine when the Catholic Diocese of Lubbock was established in 1983. Cities served by the diocese are San Angelo, Odessa, Midland, Big Spring, and Abilene and the smaller communities of Brownwood, Junction, Sonora, Ozona, and Fort Stockton, among others. In 1989 the diocese covered 37,433 square miles. Forty-nine parishes and twenty-four missions were served in 1992 by eighty priests, thirty-three sisters, and forty-five permanent deacons. About 78,850 Catholics lived in the diocese, up from 61,000 in 1963; 73 percent were Hispanic. Catholicism came to the area in Spanish times with the short-lived San Clemente Mission (1632) and Santa Cruz de San Sabá Mission (1757). Later, Catholics settled around the frontier forts or came with the railroads in the 1880s. Diocesan clergy, members of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, and Franciscans established many parishes.
Officially, the diocese began on January 24, 1962, with the consecration of Thomas J. Drury as the diocese's first bishop. Four other bishops also served the diocese: Thomas Tschoepe (1966–69), Stephen A. Leven (1969–79), Joseph A. Fiorenza (1979–84), and Michael D. Pfeifer (1985-). Because of its central location, San Angelo was designated the diocesan headquarters. Sacred Heart Parish, founded in 1884, became the cathedral. Financial problems in operating various Catholic schools reduced the number from twelve in 1963 to three in 1992. The permanent diaconate was established in the diocese in the late 1970s with two training classes for laymen. The permanent deacons worked under their pastor's direction preaching, baptizing, officiating at marriages and funerals, and in other ministries. In 1981, under the leadership of Bishop Fiorenza, a major fund drive raised $1.6 million for the construction of a retreat center in San Angelo. Christ the King Retreat Center, completed in 1983, was built to accommodate more than 100 people. The facility includes the Camunez-Tucker Chapel, several meeting rooms, a cafeteria, and offices on grounds near the Concho River. The center is used for retreats, meetings, and ecumenical activities. Three years later the Pastoral Center was constructed nearby to provide space for the major diocesan offices including that of the bishop, the matrimonial tribunal, and the religious education office. A Catholic newspaper, called the Texas Concho Register, was begun in the diocese's early years; it was renamed the West Texas Angelus in 1980. Published biweekly, it carries local, national, and international Catholic news and in 1990 had a circulation of approximately 18,000.